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Family Trust: A Novel

Family Trust: A Novel

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Family Trust: A Novel

3.5/5 (29 evaluări)
518 pages
7 hours
Oct 30, 2018


“A globe-trotting, whirlwind, tragi-comic family saga that wrings tears from absurdity and laughter from loss.  A joy to read from start to finish.”
   — Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize

The Nest meets Crazy Rich Asians in this sharp comedic novel about a Chinese-American family's attempts (or not) to fulfill its dying patriarch's final bequest.

Some of us are more equal than others....

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

For his son Fred, the inheritance Stanley has long alluded to would soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. By now, the Harvard Business School graduate had expected to be a financial tech god – not a minor investor at a middling corporate firm, where he isn’t even allowed to fly business class.

Stanley’s daughter, Kate, is a middle manager with one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious tech companies. She manages the capricious demands of her world-famous boss and the needs of her two young children all while supporting her would-be entrepreneur husband (just until his startup gets off the ground, which will surely be soon). But lately, Kate has been sensing something amiss; just because you say you have it all, it doesn’t mean that you actually do.   

Stanley’s second wife, Mary Zhu, twenty-eight years his junior, has devoted herself to making her husband comfortable in every way—rubbing his feet, cooking his favorite dishes, massaging his ego.  But lately, her commitment has waned; caring for a dying old man is far more difficult than she expected.

Linda Liang, Stanley’s first wife, knows her ex better than anyone. She worked hard for decades to ensure their financial security, and is determined to see her children get their due. Single for nearly a decade, she might finally be ready for some romantic companionship. But where does a seventy-two year old Chinese woman in California go to find an appropriate boyfriend?

As Stanley’s death approaches, the Huangs are faced with unexpected challenges that upend them and eventually lead them to discover what they most value. A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust skewers the ambition and desires that drive Silicon Valley and draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life.

Oct 30, 2018

Despre autor

Kathy Wang grew up in Northern California and holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children.

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  • At that moment Mary felt closer than she’d ever been to Kate and Linda and Fred, yet she knew at the same time that they were as far away as they ever could be. And that it would stay that way now, because their interests were so opposed.

  • Lately, she’d had the overwhelming sensation that there were no single, seminal moves that completely altered the course of one’s destiny. Instead, life just seemed to be a series of small mistakes, which you continued to make over and over again.

  • They didn’t yet understand that as one grew older, as one’s own children aged and moved away, your own self came increasingly back into focus. Life became definitively finite, increasingly so, and your desire for pleasure grew each day.

  • But why does everyone here make such a big deal about not being racist?”“Probably because they are.

  • Boredom is its own sort of busy, except there’s less variety.

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Family Trust - Kathy Wang


Chapter 1


Stanley Huang sat, naked but for the thin cotton dressing gown crumpled against the sterile white paper in the hospital room, and listened to the young doctor describe how he would die.

It had begun six months earlier, the first time he grew concerned about his weight. He’d arrived home to San Jose via shared shuttle bus—the concluding act to his latest vacation, a two-week pleasure cruise through the Mediterranean—and strode straight for the master bathroom upstairs. Followed closely by his wife, Mary Zhu, as she harped on about shoes worn inside the house—a gross violation of the clean room–like conditions she worked so hard to achieve before each trip.

I don’t understand why you can’t just do this one thing I ask, she complained. Just kick your sneakers off by the door; you don’t even have to put them away! You always want everything to be spotless, but you have no idea how hard it is to keep a home clean.

Stanley ignored her, as he could. It was his house, not hers.

He took the stairs two at a time. He was eager to visit his bathroom. The amenities of the lower-tier cabin they’d inhabited for the past two weeks had included a small porthole with a view of the ocean and daily replenished cologne-scented toiletries, but no bathroom scale. Stanley had made a habit of weighing himself each morning after his first urine for the past twelve years, ever since his divorce from his first wife, Linda Liang.

The screen blinked. 145. A four-pound loss.

There was a brief wave of pleasure before the undertow arrived; 145 couldn’t possibly be correct given the events of the past two weeks, where he had willingly and pleasurably gorged at every meal on the Hidden Star, alternating between the butter garlic shrimp and poached flounder mains each evening. Normally Stanley ate with a moderate interest in health, taking care to consume meat sparingly and forcing himself to order at least one steamed vegetable plate when dining out. The one exception was on holiday, especially an all-inclusive already funded eight months in advance, on a vessel specifically selected for its bounty of complimentary food options and relative absence of hidden fees and surcharges. The Star Grill—the onboard steakhouse—featured a chocolate fondue, which he ordered unique combinations of each night. Dark with almond slivers. Milk with toffee chunks. Add a splash of Amaretto.

Stanley came off the scale, waited for it to reset, and stepped back on. The number still read 145. A year earlier it’d been 170. His weight loss since then had been gradual, pleasing—the result of increased exercise and improved diet, he had thought. Some mornings he skipped the routine with the machine altogether, stringing together days of abstinence until he once again strode on, jubilantly expectant, on each occasion happily gratified by the result. Another two pounds lost. Three! Controlling one’s weight was easy, he crowed to Mary, who struggled with her figure and who, given his aggressive hinting, had ceased eating dinner most days altogether. All you needed was self-discipline. Eat enough vegetables, and you could indulge in anything else you wanted.

But that afternoon, back from the cruise and awash with jet lag and joint pain and the telltale facial bloat of twelve days of gastronomic bacchanalia over international waters, Stanley was worried. The loss simply didn’t make sense. Never before had he been so light; were he to continue dropping at the same rate, he’d soon be the same size as his early days in high school, at the number-five-ranked Boys’ Institute in Taipei. He decided he needed to schedule a medical appointment, a chore he usually enjoyed. Stanley was seventy-four and took a considerable interest in the medical miseries of his peers; doctors’ visits accomplished the dual tasks of both occupying his day and providing reassurance that his health continued to be in top form.

What followed next, a full week later—the earliest Kaiser Permanente could secure an open slot with his general physician—wasn’t the quick dismissal Stanley expected. Instead, there came a series of drawn-out diagnoses. First the rather vague gallbladder disease, which the specialists were only able to initially elaborate on in terms of statistics: 50 percent an inflammation, 40 percent a problem with bile flow, 10 percent cancer. After that last horrifying word was set loose, left to hang stinking in the air, the theory then moved on to diabetes, a condition that would have ordinarily terrified Stanley but which, compared to cancer, seemed eminently reasonable, a diagnosis that managed to be lethal only when one was too poor or too stupid to follow basic medical and dietary guidelines. Then diabetes was set aside for a peptic ulcer, which had seemed positively benign in comparison with everything else. And that had been the end of it, until today.

Pancreatic cancer, the doctor said, is something we can’t rule out at this point.

His name was Neil Patel, a baby-faced Indian man whom Stanley had met once before, back when the presumed issue was still his gallbladder. The CT scan showed something that looked to be a mass near the head of the pancreas, Dr. Patel said, though they couldn’t be certain. Additional tests were needed, likely a biopsy. The doctor was quick to add that this wasn’t a diagnosis but merely a possibility—one of many potential outcomes, and thus no impetus for a panic.

Please don’t obsess, he said. At this point it isn’t necessary or helpful. There’s always the chance it could be nothing serious. Yet his face betrayed the true nature of his sentiments, the youthful features marred by somberness. The harsh, bright sterility of the room amplified the grim atmosphere. Stanley closed his eyes, though the fluorescent light still rained through.

After he provided initial guidance for what was to follow, Dr. Patel left the room. I’ll be back in a few minutes, he said. Please think of any questions you might have.

As the door closed, Mary reached for Stanley’s shoulder. Should we call your family?

Fred only, Stanley said. He patted his lap as he searched for his phone and wallet, before realizing he wasn’t wearing pants. They must be in Mary’s bag, he thought, but didn’t want to make eye contact. He wanted her gone from the room; he wished he were completely alone and had never entered this place. His stomach rumbled. Somewhere inside, nestled deep within secretive cavities, small portions of his body were actively betraying him.

Fred! Mary cried. Fred was her least favorite of Stanley’s children. Don’t you mean Kate? Daughters are always better in these situations, aren’t they?

When Stanley was silent, she charged on. Besides, if you’re worried about having to tell people, Kate will handle that for you. She’ll call Fred, and the rest of them. Them to no doubt include Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, a source of both mild dislike and eternal fascination. Though Mary liked to ask Stanley about Linda on occasion, he had never once answered any of her questions to her satisfaction.

Fred, Stanley said. Call him now.

Chapter 2


At Saks Fifth Avenue in Palo Alto, the premier department store of the increasingly upscale Peninsula Shopping Center, designer handbags were the biggest movers. While for multiple seasons fashion magazines and pundits had proclaimed the death of the It bag, in the Bay Area—the land of athleisure and yoga pants, where there existed precious few avenues for distinguishing apparel—the designer bag still reigned supreme. In response, the merchandising powers at Saks had dedicated nearly half of the first floor to the celebration and consumption of said accessory, and it was here that Fred Huang sat, slouched over on a leather padded bench, waiting for his girlfriend to sell a $62,000 watch.

Erika Varga stood a short distance away, in the relatively diminutive space of the fine jewelry department, gently flirting with the older man facing her. All around them the lights were dimmer than in the rest of the store, to accentuate the glints of precious stones while softening the sags and jowls they adorned. The soft gray cardigan and black pencil skirt Erika wore were too warm given the weather—come the end of her shift, Fred knew she’d remove the sweater as soon as she walked outside, to better enjoy the balmy heat and sun-soaked palm trees that dotted the open-air shopping center. Though the formal skirt and high heels would still give her away. In this part of Palo Alto, especially in late summer, only retail workers dressed in black and patent leather.

"It’s because you have taste," Fred could hear Erika say, her laugh ringing softly.

The watch wasn’t tasteful. Even from a distance Fred could see the flash from the diamonds circling the elephantine dial, much too ostentatious a look for Silicon Valley. As Erika moved to close the sale, she took care not to alienate the customer’s age-appropriate wife, nearby examining an Elizabeth Locke bracelet. Each time Erika mewed a coquettish reply to the man, Fred could see her simultaneously cast a conspiratorial glance at his partner: These men really are just grown-up boys, aren’t they?

The wife, resplendently casual in an embroidered field jacket and a gold curb chain wound around her neck, smiled pleasantly without bothering to meet Erika’s gaze. She appeared to possess ample experience when it came to her husband and the techniques of luxury shop girls; she continued to stoically finger the diamond-encrusted toggle while her other half belched a series of chortles and quips. After a particularly jolting guffaw, she checked her watch and released a sigh of resigned endurance.

I’m about to make your day, the man announced. You’ve sold me! What do you think about that! His voice echoed out from the small space, an announcement to all nearby that a Very High Value transaction was about to go down. Typical nouveau blowhard, Fred thought. He made sure to appear as if he hadn’t heard anything, in case the man looked over.

You’ve made a wonderful selection, Erika replied. You’ll have this piece forever.

She excused herself and parted the curtains toward the back room, adjusting her walk to lend a provocative sway to her ass. A minute later she reappeared, with a half bottle of champagne and two glasses on a silver tray. Just a little celebration.

The sound of the cork as it popped drew all available eyeballs within a certain radius. When they looked over, they saw Erika—the second button of her cardigan now undone, with the lace camisole underneath peeking through—pouring for the customer and his wife. The man was insisting something; Erika reached smoothly underneath the podium and brought out a third glass, which the customer proceeded to fill. Salut! he cheered. For a brief, unhinged moment, Fred imagined he had said slut. He shook his head, and the vision departed.

This was always when he found Erika most attractive: when she was selling. The first time Fred had been made aware of the importance of selling was when he was at Harvard Business School. He’d been thirty and in a relationship with Charlene Choi, a fellow MBA and spoiled Korean princess who in four years would become his wife and in seven his ex. The student body in those days had still been obsessed with high finance—the heady days of the first tech bubble were safely behind, while the second was still in its early stages of percolation—and in class the professors had all impressed upon them the importance of salesmanship, the massive gift and rare talent it was to be able to convince agents in a free market to willingly part with resources. It wasn’t enough to possess an expertise in the emerging markets or the quant ability of a Russian Asperger’s: finance was at its heart a rough universe, a trader’s world, where a good percentage of the top bosses had grown up poor and hustling. You had to be able to sell, to be a real player.

In the beginning, everyone took the lesson seriously. The Sales Club had a flurry of enrollments, and the lone salesperson in Fred’s section, a former GE aeronautics rep, had enjoyed alpha status for nearly a week, at one point speaking for five minutes uninterrupted—an eternity in the classroom—on a case study on Jack Welch. But over the following months, attitudes reverted back to the status quo. The optional early-morning negotiations seminar lost its luster in the face of the raging hangover triggered by the late-night cavortings at the Priscilla Ball—the annual cross-dressing party—the night before, and plus, there were so many other variables that seemed to play a defining role in success. One’s parents, for example, and selection of partner. Many assumed that Harvard, with its 70/30 male-to-female ratio, was full of sexual opportunists, and while this wasn’t necessarily untrue, the excavation went in both directions. For every penniless fortune huntress brandishing an engagement ultimatum, there was a corresponding Adonis attached to a Sternman or Mortimer with lavish stables and a horseface; there were nearly as many famous last names in Fred’s class among the women as among the men.

Given his relationship with Charlene, Fred’s only attempt at striving had been strictly platonic: a close friendship with Jack Hu, the lone male scion of a billionaire family in Hong Kong. They shared a circle because they were both Asian men, a minority whose numbers at Harvard were carefully and deliberately contained each year by the administration. The fact that Jack was slightly dull, both in mind and wit, was vastly outweighed by his vast wealth, and for two delectable years Fred had imagined himself as part of this gilded orbit, one where bodyguards trailed at a discreet distance and residences were maintained at the Mandarin Oriental downtown, instead of on campus.

Of course, Fred didn’t have Jack all to himself. Billionaires were in high demand within the HBS student population, and Fred soon found himself in competition for Jack’s favor with a bevy of assorted suitors, a group that included not only the other Asian men but also the predatory women, all of whom seemed to regard Jack’s stutter and predilection for playing Civilization for hours as simply adorable. And the Asians weren’t the only problem! There were also the South Americans, Europeans, Jews, Eastern Europeans, Africans, African Americans, and regular vanilla-white Americans—each bloc eager to make the acquaintance of fascinating personalities whose families’ real estate holdings were rumored to include entire acres in Knightsbridge and downtown Sydney. All hungry, though luckily—given the numerous plum targets available—less inclined to devote the focused energy to drawing Jack out of his initial shyness than Fred was. Jack finally venturing to ask, after months of mild conviviality, over steaming bowls of beef pho in Harvard Square, if Fred had ever disappointed his parents. My dad, he’s angry I missed my cousin’s wedding in Cap Ferrat.

Or while sharing a thin-crust pizza at Pinocchio’s—pepperoni with extra mushrooms, since it was Jack’s favorite—Have you ever had the feeling that one of your professors was trying to network with you?

Or at the Indian buffet in Central Square, both hovering over the chicken tikka masala: I have to fly to Singapore next week. There’s drama with the board over succession planning.

Oh? Fred would casually reply each time, taking care never to look up from his food. He had learned that enthusiasm frightened the rich and powerful, as they recalled parental exhortations to never trust the less fortunate, who were unpredictable in their poverty. He pampered Jack in their interactions, but not obviously; feted him, but not ostentatiously. And over time Jack felt comfortable in their camaraderie, and they became friends.

After graduation, they vowed to keep in touch, but Fred was always bad at that sort of relationship maintenance, like remembering to attend others’ birthday parties so that when the time came, they in exchange would grace his own. So it was only five years later, at the reunion, that he understood how much reassurance his friendship with Jack had provided, like a long-stowed savings bond one could recall at will. Jack was already married by then, and they’d shared a few minutes of superficial banter before he was spotted and quickly pulled away, his patrician wife tossing back a sympathetic smile as they receded. It was then that Fred knew he had lost it, had abandoned out of sheer carelessness his brief, tenuous connection to the very top of the 1 percent.

Until that morning.

* * *

From: Jack888@babamail.com

To: Fred@Lion-Capital.com

Subject: Founders’ Retreat


It’s been a while . . . how long since we last talked?

On my end I’m good, still managing the family business. It’s been satisfying to see it grow, though I wish I didn’t have to live in Hong Kong. The air is shit. Sherry still gets on me for playing video games, she says I should have more serious pursuits now that I’m past forty and have three kids. Are you on Dota?

You may not have heard, but Reagan Kwon (remember him? a year above us) and I have done a few deals together since school, and I’ve been unofficially advising him on Thailand’s economic development fund since the beginning of the year. Your name came up as a possible partner on the US side. Thoughts? It’s a few billion right now, but growing.

Reagan and I will both be at the Founders’ Retreat this year in Bali. Hope we can catch up there!


* * *

Jack, back from the beyond. A few billion (US dollars, Fred hoped).

And Reagan Kwon.

Reagan Kwon, like Jack, was part of Asia’s economic royalty, though considerably more colorful. Unlike Jack’s parents, who were notoriously private, the elder Kwons were the sort of wealthy couple who loved to see their names on buildings and charity invitations, and they actively encouraged their cosseted only son to make a similar mark for himself. Reagan had started out at Harvard a social star, flying his entire section of ninety to Vegas on a chartered 747 for his birthday. No one was exactly certain where the Kwon money originated, though there was gossip of precious metals and mining and the old shah of Iran. There was even a kidnapped family member or two in the lineage, as well as rumors of lopped-off pinky toes; whispers of the entire ordeal having been orchestrated by an ex-mistress, a stunning former Miss Hong Kong frozen out by the family after what she still insisted was a perfectly innocent pregnancy scare.

Reagan had barely interacted with Fred during school, though of course he knew Jack. While Reagan was more popular, Jack’s family had the greater fortune; that equation meant it was the former who doggedly pursued the friendship expected by both families. Reagan invited Jack to all his parties and once went as far as to ship a Japanese blow-up doll to Jack’s apartment at the Mandarin in a misguided attempt at a practical joke. The box had been labeled as a grandfather clock, and Jack, assuming it was an antique sent by his parents, enlisted the help of an assistant concierge to unpack the deceptively heavy carton. He’d been so humiliated once the oversize figure had been revealed, and at such a loss to explain its origin, that he could only think to call Fred, who had hurried over. Jack was paranoid about being photographed or captured on security cameras with the offending object, so after some struggle Fred brought down the doll himself using the service elevator and heaved it into the trash bin headfirst, pausing briefly to admire the lifelike limbs and chest. Noting that even for an occasion such as this, Reagan had purchased the very best.

Fred knew peripherally that since graduation Reagan had calmed somewhat and that in the past few years he and Jack had participated together in multiple investments, mostly Asian copycats of US start-ups. People like Reagan and Jack (or at least their family office advisors) generally didn’t bother with less than 20 percent annualized returns, preferably with tacit government backing. Whatever it was they were proposing, it meant serious money.

The rattle of heels. Erika had excused herself from her customer and was striding toward him, shoes pounding in even rhythm. Do you see? she asked. She lowered her voice. Right in front of you.

Fred peered over her shoulder. The wife’s untouched champagne sat on top of the glass Cartier display, water pooling around its base. It appeared to have been abandoned in her quest for comfortable seating—she was now sunk into a fat chair in the far corner, the Elizabeth Locke bracelet still wrapped around her hands. Fred noticed the security guard’s eyes pass over. One couldn’t be too careful these days, no matter how moneyed or white the patron.

The glass?

Erika made a grimace. Disgusting, she hissed. Fred knew she’d have to clean everything when her customers left, rinsing the crystal in the crude sink in the back and wiping down the counters. She bore a violent animosity toward such tasks, insisting they were beneath her job description.

Don’t worry about it. Shouldn’t you be getting back to your customer? You made a big sale, right? Congratulations.

She shrugged. We’re almost done. Here. She cut over a business card from her palm. Erika asked all her customers for them, looking up the names after work. She kept only the prime specimens, the companies and titles she thought Fred might be impressed by. "This one’s nothing compared to you. He works in mortgages. I should tell him what you do."

Fred suppressed a groan. Please don’t bring up my job with your customers.

But so many of them are in your industry, she complained. "It’s ridiculous, this resistance you have. And also don’t you see now, how the wives behave? It makes me so angry that they think they’re better than me, when . . . well, we’re kind of engaged, aren’t we? We basically live together; all my things are at your place. And the men, I’m quite certain a lot of them would be very interested to know I actually understand something of their work! You know my style, I always do better when I’m chatting as a friend, not as staff. How do you think I sold this watch? Michael will be thrilled we finally got rid of it. It’s been sitting in the display for almost a year!"

I know you’re an excellent salesperson. That’s why you don’t need to mention anything about me or Lion Capital.

"But Amanda talks about her husband all the time, and he’s just a regular broker at TD Ameritrade. Amanda says he’s proud that she talks about him. He even jokes that she should give out his card to customers!"

Good for Amanda’s husband. Not for me.

This is so stupid. Erika’s mouth twisted with displeasure. "I’m just proud of you!" And she abruptly swiveled, gliding back.

This was his fault, Fred understood. He had created this problem. From the beginning of their relationship Erika had been so eager for him to be a certain type of man (the finance god, the technologist, the power broker) that over time he’d developed a bad habit of aggrandizing his work, relaxing all the anxieties his ex-wife had worked so hard to instill. Fred Huang, the Venture Capital God! He knew that how he’d represented his particular vantage point in the overwrought matrix that made up Silicon Valley’s power structure hadn’t been—if one wanted to be brutally fair—particularly accurate. But it had all been so easy, as Erika lacked even a rudimentary understanding of the caste system that ruled his world. Didn’t he rate a little fun, after what he’d been through with Charlene? Didn’t his ego deserve some time in the sun?

Charlene, a fellow HBS alum, had known implicitly where Fred’s job lay in his industry’s pecking order: near its swampy bottom. Lion Capital, the investment arm of its larger parent company—Lion Electronics, the technology behemoth headquartered in Taiwan—awarded its employees none of the traditional perks of venture capital, such as carried interest or management fees, where the real fortunes were made. Lion was corporate venture capital, which meant it invested cash from its parent’s balance sheet and, as it generally went for the industry, paid modestly. While a senior partner at a traditional venture firm like Tata Packer could be expected to take home anywhere between $2 and $4 million per annum, Fred—the second-highest-ranked investment professional at Lion—garnered a mere fraction: $325,000, a pittance in Silicon Valley! Nowhere close to what was needed to buy a house in Hillsborough or responsibly stay any longer than a few days at Post Ranch Inn or Amangiri.

While with his ex this fact had lain between them, Charlene’s sighs as she leafed through Architectural Digest a tacit reminder of his ongoing parity with the average corporate chump, with Erika it had been entirely deprived of oxygen from the start. She never saw his pay stubs and didn’t have a loose network of hundreds of classmates as well as a particularly haughty cousin who worked in private equity. The only proof of status Erika had ever required was his title (managing director) and industry (venture capital), and her hearty approval had gushed with full force. Urging him, as she had with each delighted smile, to brag with reckless bravado:

Why wouldn’t I be able to find the wrapping paper at Target? I did a $250 million IPO last quarter, didn’t I?

Griffin Keeles and I flew on a private plane; it was no big deal.

Teslas are a dime a dozen. I could buy one whenever I want. Could afford to get you one too!

Exquisite Erika, who was at her most appealing when captivated by his swagger; the loose hazelnut curls and light filtered through green eyes, a thrilling contrast to the plain blacks and dark browns of the Asians he’d mostly dated before. Her youth set off by the classic luxury of her wardrobe, the result of careful utilization of employee sales and double-discount days. Her elegant posture and doe-like features and spectacular breasts; more than adequate compensation for the occasional crudity.

For outside the learned confines of the retail environment, Erika could be unpolished, even crude. She was the only woman Fred knew who regularly flipped the bird at reckless drivers, and given even the most minor of lapses, she regularly barked at service staff. At times, Fred almost liked the crassness. Charlene had possessed perfect manners, relentlessly honed during the course of a childhood spent in a twelve-bedroom turreted monstrosity in Bergen County, while the lone other white woman he’d seriously dated before Erika—Tiffany Cantor, a college volleyball player turned ad sales rep at Google—had been uniformly sweet to the point of near sickening. Gushing "thank you so much nonstop at restaurants, impressed beyond belief that the food they ordered and would be paying for was actually being delivered to their table. And if the establishment happened to be ethnic, always layering on an extra And everything tasted wonderful."

Once, when Fred was in a bad mood, he’d informed Tiffany that most of the cheap restaurants they patronized didn’t care what she thought of the food, and he could certainly vouch that the Chinese ones didn’t. As if the Cantonese chefs and Hispanic line cooks had been waiting their entire lives for a pretty Caucasian girl from Huntington Beach to cast her approval over their cuisine! Tiffany had blushed a deep crimson. This was just how she’d learned to behave, she explained, to establish incontrovertibly that she was a nice person before the other party invariably docked her for being attractive and thin and blond. You wouldn’t be able to understand, she added, before quickly raising her hands to her mouth in horror. Because a truth had accidentally materialized that until then had always lain between them unspoken: that she as a young white woman was desirable in America, and Fred as an Asian man was not.

Fred of course was already aware of this stereotype, had discussed it ad nauseam with other friends over the years—first with indignation, then with rage, and then with the mild acceptance that turned to pride when he walked into bars and restaurants with Tiffany. He was proud of his outward refutation of it—he was six two, lean but built, and conventionally successful; he had no difficulties attracting women. So he’d been surprised to feel the warmth of inarticulate anger and shame return so quickly in the midst of what had at the time been his greatest romantic triumph to date; he rapidly shifted topics, and they’d proceeded as if it were just a throwaway comment, already left by the wayside. When they arrived back at the apartment, Tiffany went after him with a focused determination that seemed to prove she’d understood the unexpected candor of her statements; the fact that she went down on him—a service she had rendered only once prior in the three months they had dated—solidified his theory.

None of this was a problem with Erika. Erika didn’t like most ethnic restaurants, and in particular the cheap authentic ones, an admission that in native Bay Area circles was viewed with the same muted horror as Holocaust denial or the use of trans fats. She’d been twenty-seven when she emigrated from Hungary, and her impression of dating culture in the United States was constructed around entirely different ideals: red roses and lobster entrées and warmed desserts à la mode. She had little excitement for popular peer-reviewed eateries with $7 tapas and yuzu sangria—to her these were just cheap outings, designed to land her in bed with the least amount of spent resources.

Unlike past girlfriends, Erika never offered to pay for meals or activities, which Fred thought he’d mind more than he did. Each time he treated, she was graciously thankful though not gratuitously so, which he found he preferred to the usual tedious routine of wallet fumbling. The check lingering awkwardly on the table at the end of the night, his date reaching into her bag after a precisely timed delay; the halfhearted attempt to offer a credit card before it was tucked away. The woman sheepishly thanking him after it was all over with a small undertone of resentment, as if Fred were personally responsible for making her violate some bullshit tenet of female equality she didn’t really believe in the first place.

Erika simply sat, watched him pay, and said thank you. She wasn’t complicated about these things, she said. American women complicated too much.

* * *

In the parking lot, as they walked toward his car, Erika once again brought up her father’s upcoming birthday. Are you going to send him a present? she asked. And maybe something small for my mother? When he was quiet, she hounded on. Because there’s only so much time left, to ship economy. Of course if you still want to buy something next week you can, but then you’ll have to use FedEx, pay for overnight. It’s a waste of money, no? Better to spend on the actual gift.

They entered the BMW—a decade-old 3 Series Fred was determined to drive until he had enough in his house fund to justify an auxiliary splurge on a Big Swinging Dick vehicle—and instead of answering he turned up the volume on NPR. Even before they’d met, Fred had never liked the sound of György and Anna Varga, two supposed Budapest intellectuals who, despite regularly espousing the superior merits of Socialism, made it clear they fully expected to spend their retirement in spacious comfort in sunny California. The elder Vargas regarded their two adult children as the primary means of attaining said goal, and they had practically shoved Nora—Erika’s older sister—into the arms of a distant American friend of a friend thirty years her senior who had been visiting Budapest on a hall pass. The fact that Nora had subsequently become impregnated by Dominik—who then divorced his wife and moved Nora to Northern California, only to freak out and repeat the entire scenario anew three years later—had been disappointing only in that Nora had merely managed to wrest a studio apartment in Fremont for herself and baby Zoltan out of the deal.

When György and Anna booked their first visit to the Bay Area, Nora and Erika had obsessed for weeks prior to their arrival, going as far as to rent a black Cadillac Escalade to transport them in lavish comfort. Eager to impress, Fred had invited the group to Seasons, a Michelin two star serving upscale French-Californian in Los Gatos, where he’d ordered the tasting menu with full wine pairings for the table. When the bill arrived, Fred had fully expected to pay—had already estimated in his mind the exact hit in terms of tax and tip—but it still galled to not even have György make an attempt for the leather folder, especially as he and Anna had been the only two to opt for the caviar and black truffle supplements.

Hello? Erika poked him between the ribs. Did you hear what I said?

The light outside was undergoing the rapid shift from warm to cool as they approached San Francisco; there was a chill in the car, and goose bumps rose along his arm. Fred raised the window to buy a few seconds of time.

Your father, he said finally, is an idiot.

Erika sighed, as if she’d anticipated this. "I told you already, you misunderstood what he meant about the Jews. It’s cool in Hungary to be Jewish. The most successful Hungarians are all Jewish."

"And the Chinese—excuse me, I mean, Orientals—are all criminals."

He didn’t say that. He just isn’t used to them. Fred, please.

When their group had first entered Seasons, Fred had assumed György’s gaping to be directed at the opulent yet modern decor—the broad redwood beams and pressed gold leaf ceiling, the wine cellar made entirely of glass and visible from the dining room—and felt proud of his choice. The restaurant was a reflection on him, after all: proof to Erika’s parents that he had the culture and resources to look after their daughter in a splendid fashion. Until then, he’d made a deliberate point of ignoring certain particulars regarding their interactions, such as a habit of communicating with him as if he were an exotic animal of unknown provenance, enunciating at a louder decibel; classifying their confusion over certain adjectives as his language deficiency, not theirs. It was only after overhearing Erika’s gently worded explanations during the sea bream appetizer course that Fred realized György assumed they’d been taken to some sort of lower-class establishment. That György had expected the best restaurants in California to be filled with Caucasian faces, not yellow and brown.

In Hungary, you have to understand that most of the Chinese, they are not so rich. And there are barely any Indians. He was just confused, Fred. He didn’t know.

"Uh-huh. And just how confused is György over you dating someone Chinese?"

He understands . . . Erika hesitated. He understands that in America things are different.

In America? What if you were back in Budapest?

In Hungary, of course it would never happen.

That’s an insane statement to make. He jammed angrily at the nearest button on the dashboard, which unfortunately turned the air-conditioning on full blast. Don’t you understand how racist that makes you sound?

Erika remained calm. To her racist wasn’t such a bad word, unless used in conjunction with uneducated, which she found far more insulting. It is the truth, she said. How can someone be so angry over the truth?

Because it’s ignorant. And based on the worst stereotypes I’ve had to battle against my entire life, that Asian men are less desirable than every other race, because we’re passive, and small, and not worthy of female attention.

But I don’t have those thoughts, she protested. It’s just that I never knew any Chinese before I moved here. And I’m sorry, but it is true, that in Budapest they do crime. Though they mostly keep it between themselves, she added charitably. In Hungary, if you bring a gift to someone’s house, the first thing they will check for when they are alone is whether it was made in China. Because then they know whether you paid a lot or a little.

Oh really? So everything made in China is cheap? So your father wouldn’t like it if I bought him an iPhone? That had been the ongoing hint for Christmas the year before, with Erika laying the groundwork in September and campaigning through mid-December. Fred had shipped György and Anna the joint present of an iPad mini and a $100 iTunes gift card instead. Collectively the two had cost less than one smartphone, and that wasn’t even including the continuing overhead of a data plan.

Well no, Erika said. Everyone knows the iPhone is very top.

"How can you say all that then, about Made in China being cheap, when your whole family worships Apple products? Which are made in China? Don’t you see how stupid, how uneducated, it makes you seem?"

Let’s not say such things. Erika placed a soft hand on his shoulder, ignoring the salvo, unusual for her. Besides, the only thing that matters is you and me. And you are mine. My successful venture capitalist, for whom I am so grateful.

THAT EVENING FRED LAY IN BED, BLINKING THE SLOW ACKNOWLEDGMENT of late-night wakefulness. Insomnia had been descending often lately, a worrisome development as he thought it possibly a symptom of low testosterone. Was he having a midlife crisis? He considered a rededication to one of his interests, before realizing he no longer had any. He used to be passionate about so many things—photography, basketball, traveling. Now the ardor was gone. The disturbing thought flickered that perhaps this was the natural course of life events, that at some point vigor and vitality were supposed to be replaced by marriage and children.

Erika, he whispered. He cleared his throat, first softly, and then louder. Erika. He nudged her with his foot, enough to shift her leg. She lay still, prettily snoring.

Fuck it—he was going to watch porn. Fred tiptoed to the laptop on his desk. Dare he bring it back to bed? No, she might wake, and then he’d be in for it; Erika was surprisingly puritanical about such matters. He decided to stay in the chair.

When he opened the browser, he discovered that Erika had started a Twitter account. Why hadn’t she told him? Though Fred himself didn’t use Twitter, had never bothered to even register a username. The stars of his industry tweeted habitually, racking up audiences ranging from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions; he knew whatever paltry following he’d manage to attract would only serve as a humiliating comparison.

He examined the page. A quick scroll revealed Erika was largely sharing articles with mentions of Lion Capital, and reposting general Silicon Valley news: Tech IPOs Predicted to Surge in 2016, one announced. The Bubble That Wasn’t a Bubble! Innocuous enough, until he unearthed several alarming interactions between Erika and what looked to be complete strangers.

Untrue, she’d tweeted, at some random pundit who had commented that a certain managing partner at Sequoia dressed too casually for industry standards. My VC fiancé wears jeans everyday. He is too busy to be bothered with fussy dress. He thinks big picture, only.

Fred moaned and slammed shut the lid, as waves of secondhand embarrassment gathered and pooled. How many more of his thoughts were out there, being parroted into written evidence? Privately claiming to a girlfriend—over a second bottle of Opus One at Bistro Jeanty—that one was a so-called rainmaker in Silicon Valley was very different from having the same convictions bullhorned for the general public. What else had she been writing? And more important, where? The whole incident reminded him of when he’d told his mother he was the most popular freshman at Claremont High, only to overhear her boasting of it verbatim on the phone to friends with children the year above him at the same school weeks later. My Fred is so well liked, she’d crowed. So many birthday invitations! And he goes to all the dances!

When he woke again it was late morning. Erika was already awake and out of bed preparing breakfast, the routine she always reverted to when she knew she’d annoyed him. The unnerving sensation he’d felt late in the night still lurked, and he was struck by an acute desire to reread Jack’s email. As soon as he reconfirmed its existence, Fred thought, he’d feel better. Reagan Kwon. A few billion. He repeated

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  • (4/5)
    Family Trust is a story of how a Silicon Valley Chinese family behave when the patriarch is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. When Stanley Huang discovers that he only has a few months to live, his adult children, ex-wife and wife all react to the news differently. Stanley has had a successful career and has been lavish with his spending, so everyone is eagerly anticipating a possible windfall. But will all the money go to Mary, the new wife? What about the kids? And shouldn't grandchildren count for something? With abundant dark humor, the story of a greedy dysfunctional family unfolds. Although it's hard to really like any of the characters, I found the descriptions of Silicon Valley and my home town, to be amazingly accurate. Yes our Whole Foods really does have a local craft beer section, dosa bar and more varieties of hummus than you can imagine. And it has the tiniest parking lot for any supermarket in the area. The descriptions of greed and the constant drive for success and wealth was also scarily accurate. Maybe I have my Pollyanna glasses on, but I do think that most people aren't as heartless as the Huang family, which made it difficult for me to really connect or care about their lives, but I still found myself not being able to put the book down.There are many human flaws discussed in this book which would make for a fascinating book club discussion.
  • (3/5)
    A Chinese American family living in Silicon Valley is pursuing the American dream. When the father becomes ill with pancreatic cancer and death looms on the horizon, his ex-wife urges their two adult children to make sure the will is up to date and reflects that the children will receive their inheritance.This story of greed has well drawn characters who exhibit both the best and the worst characteristics of people we all probably know. Having been involved in the horrible experience of a family dispute over an inheritance, I could relate to this story. The author must have done a good job of portraying reality because the story evoked a lot of emotions in me - - particularly, why does someone automatically think he or she is entitled to an (unearned) inheritance? I felt the ending gave everyone exactly what they deserved.
  • (3/5)
    This book was much more slow-moving that I had anticipated. It was hyped as the next Crazy Rich Asians, but other than being about an Asian family living in the wealthy cities of the Bay Area....there wasn't any other connection. It was a slow drama, more like The Nest, than anything else. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't terrible either. There were no twists, no moments of redemption, no areas for growth. The characters stayed in their naive little bubbles all throughout. Was that the point of the story? That the death of a patriarch doesn't call upon family to self-reflect and change ways?
  • (4/5)
    This book appealed to me for several reasons.– it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area and perhaps more importantly, not just the city itself but also the rest of the Bay Area. Don’t get me wrong, I like the city (well parts of it at least), the husband works there and all, but we live in the East Bay and it’s nice to see other parts of the area talked about.– it’s a story about East Asian immigrants. They are originally from Taiwan, as are many of those in the Bay Area and I’m always interested in stories about immigration, particularly from Asia.Also it opens with a whopper of a first sentence.“Stanley Huang sat, naked but for the thing cotton dressing gown crumpled against the sterile white paper in the hospital room, and listened to the young doctor describe how he would die.”He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this is the story of how he and his family deal with it.He has a son, Fred, Harvard Business School grad, who’s been trying to make it big in the fintech industry but hasn’t quite yet. His daughter Kate is doing well at a well-known Silicon Valley company but is struggling with the balance of home and work. Also something seems to be up with her husband who is trying to get his start-up going.Then there is their mother, Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, perhaps a less-than-usual Asian woman of her time, one who continued working for decades, and yes, even divorced her husband. She’s even been thinking of dating again!“What was one supposed to say, when one’s now-ex-husband of thirty-four years was struck with such a diagnosis?”Stanley’s current wife Mary is 28 years younger than him. She’s a former waitress and has devoted her new life to caring for Stanley but now with Stanley dying, his family is suspicious of her motives.For Stanley has often hinted at his riches – in the millions! Who deserves it more, the one who’s been caring for him in recent years? His children? Linda is determined to make sure her kids get their fair share.Family Trust is a Silicon Valley story. It is also an Asian family story. It is also an American story. It’s a story about the pursuit of success, about money, about family obligation. There probably will be Crazy Rich Asians comparisons but as someone not a fan of that series, let me just say that Family Trust is better. Its characters are complex yet relatable, its observations of Silicon Valley life and family relationships are astute and witty. A great debut!Honestly, Linda has some of the best lines.“The woman likely didn’t even think she spoke English, regarding her as just another sexless Asian dotting her periphery – someone who could be ignored at will, like a houseplant.” And here’s another – apparently there are differences according to where you landed up as an immigrant.“Everyone knew that the best Chinese immigrants of their generation were settled in California, and mostly in the Bay Area. There were some in Los Angeles, but then you ran the risk of ending up with some sleazy import/exporter. And Linda had no intention of being matched with some grocery store operator in, say, Reno.” “She knew exactly how Americans saw women like the Mercedes driver – as indistinguishable from herself. An Asian lady consumed with the creation and consumption of money, who neglected to hug her children. Why did white people like to pick and choose from cultures with such zealous judgment? Of course they just loved Szechuan cuisine served by a young waitress in a cheap cheongsam, but as soon as you proved yourself just as adept at the form of capitalism they had invented? Then you were obsessed. Money crazed. Unworthy of sympathy.”
  • (3/5)
    I grew up in San Jose--and, though I haven't actually lived there in over 25 years--I do enjoy reading books that take place in San Jose and the Bay Area in general. I am up there one or two times a year, so I'm no completely clueless about San Jose today. ———In some ways this book very much reminded me of [book:The Nest25781157]--rich people want more more more. The multiple meanings of the titles is another similarity. And I struggle to care about characters who just want more. More money so they can do things they "can't afford"--like a back house or a house in Atherton. I find it very hard to relate to or care about characters (or real poeple lol) like this. The actual focus of these two books is quite different, however.In Family Trust we meet siblings Kate and Fred, her husband and kids and his girlfriend, their immigrant mother and father, and his second wife (of 9 years). While Linda and Stanley worked hard to move to "a good address" before their divorce, Kate buys a dream dump and fixes it up over years, and Fred drams of being in a very expensive zip code. Both have good Silicon Valley jobs. Linda enjoys her nice home, friends, and doing what she wants. Stanley and Mary take expensive trips and so forth.When Stanley is diagnosed with cancer, all of their focuses shift and all of their attitudes change. All want to live a little more happily and will take risks to do so.————There is interesting commentary on being Chinese/Asian in the US/Silicon Valley/Harvard Business School (advantages and disadvantages), as well as being a female executive. Solid writing, decent story, some slurs and stereotypes. A fair read, but I doubt I'll remember it for long.
  • (3/5)
    This was just an ok read for me. It was difficult to connect with the characters who were overly concerned with fancy things. I agree this book is similar to The Nest, and I cant really say which I prefer. I felt like I was waiting for something to happen the entire time I was reading.
  • (3/5)
    This family had a lot going on. The father is sick maybe has some money to leave behind and definitely has an second wife. The mother is smart and money savvy and decides to try online dating. The son and daughter are having issue with their careers and significant others. not really a book where I found myself rooting or any one person or outcome but it kept me reading.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this one. Fans of the Crazy Rich Asians series will love this book, too. Looking forward to reading more books by Kathy Wang.
  • (3/5)
    Family Trust by Kathy Wang is a very readable, somewhat humorous take on the family drama. Wang’s prose flows nicely, conversations flow well, and the characters, though stereotypical, are well developed. That being said, I didn’t like the characters enough to care what happened to any of them and was repulsed by their greed. For me, this book didn’t live up to it’s hype.
  • (4/5)
    This was one of those books that starts out slow and quietly reels you in until you are invested in seeing how it ends. I didn't feel that it lived up to all of the hype that has been built up, but it was an enjoyable book with an interesting storyline. My one complaint was the way it just kind of dropped what happened to Mary (the wife), and how everyone dealt with the reality of how much money their father had really left everyone.
  • (3/5)
    Early review copy (h/t LibraryThing) and it's a tricky one to review because I realize the work this represents from the author. I don't normally bat an eye at page count. But, for some reason, this felt daunting and took some fortitude to get through.It's not that it was poorly written. The characters, while I didn't like any of them, were fully realized. The storyline was cohesive and it made sense, it just didn't...wasn't my cup of tea.Closer to the point, this book left me on the chilly side of lukewarm. It's essentially an empty story of greed - an insatiable hunger for money, as well as the social status that confers. Remember the Rich Kids of Instagram? Well, this is kind of like that. Except with Harvard-educated adults from an Asian family. There were glimmers of humor, but I wouldn't call it entertaining and neither did it offer a particularly interesting or unique perspective on family.I was ready to take leave of this family as soon as I turned the final page (really, before...but I felt an obligation to finish it out). For the reading investment (of time, pages), I hoped to be left with something rewarding or insightful to leave prospective readers, but alas, I'm empty.
  • (4/5)
    3.5 stars - rounded up to 4 for a good debut. This was a solid family drama about a wealthy Asian family in the Bay Area. Each chapter focused on a different family member and what was going on in their lives - divorced parents Linda and Stanley and their grown children, Fred and Kate. The story that is the main thread is Stanley's diagnosis with terminal cancer. It was well written but definitely a little slow at times. Thanks to LibraryThing for the ARC.
  • (3/5)
    Kathy Wang gives us a portrait of an Asian-American family in crisis. Its patriarch is at the end of his life but instead of coming together to recognize his life, his family maneuvers to acquire shares of his financial legacy. In the final analysis, FAMILY TRUST is not a novel about trust at all but one about its absence. No one seems to be working in Stanley’s best interest, including Stanley himself. Thus none of Wang’s characters is particularly likeable. All seem to be motivated instead by things like greed, status, careerism, materialism, and self-interest. Despite an attempt at an uplifting finish, ultimately Wang fails to generate any real empathy for these people.As an Asian-American with a Harvard Business School and Silicon Valley background, Wang is eminently positioned to write about her chosen themes. Her main focus is the cultural and family pressures toward high achievement that seem to be common in certain Asian families living in America. Elite business school connections and the Silicon Valley setting only add gasoline to this fire. Wang uses these milieus to tackle some intriguing questions however. These include: What roles do luck vs. hard work play in success? How does racism manifest in these high-pressure environments? What are the pressures, expectations, and social calculations in high achieving Asian-Americans? How has American culture impacted the traditional Chinese values of family loyalty especially toward elders?Wang dedicates individual chapters to each family member. Stanley Huang is the patriarch with terminal cancer. He can be overbearing with a quick temper. He is not particularly adept with financial matters and is always on the lookout for a bargain. He tries to give his “Rolex” to his son without realizing that it is battery-operated and Rolex doesn’t make battery-driven watches. He has led his family to believe that his net worth is substantial but one senses early in the novel that this may not be the case. Stanley’s son, Fred, is a Harvard Business School graduate who always thought he would become a financial success, but feels that his career is floundering (The poor guy only makes $325,000 per year and doesn’t get to fly business class). He is divorced and dating a knockout Hungarian who sells high-end merchandise at Saks. He is beginning to sense she is too high maintenance and simply after marriage and his money. Their break-up leads to some dire but humorous consequences for poor Fred. The daughter, Kate, is struggling with trying to have it all. She is a middle manager at a prestigious tech firm. She works hard catering to the whims of her famous boss and two small children. Her husband is struggling to launch a start-up and thus has no income. Likewise he provides little help in raising the kids. For obvious reasons, this guy turns out to be the least likable of the lot. Wang portrays Fred and Kate as fairly generic American born Chinese (ABC’s). They reside at a nexus between the more traditional views of the previous generation and the high-tech society of their Bay Area peers. Much has been expected of them and both are indeed high achievers. However, both also struggle with low self-esteem. Fred thinks Kate has just been lucky, while he has struggled to launch his career. On the other hand, Kate feels like her career has been limited by her gender and race. A divorced female acquaintance urges her to be more assertive, advice she struggles to follow.Stanley’s two wives are represented by #1 Linda Liang, and #2 Mary Zhu. Linda views Stanley skeptically and makes an effort to keep her distance. She got little from him in the divorce settlement and is determined that her kids will get their fair share of his inheritance. Her success at achieving a comfortable life at age 72 speaks to her greater ability at managing money than Stanley. Although she clearly does not need another man in her life, she gets involved with a dubious Internet dating site with humorous consequences. Mary is much younger than Stanley. She is newly arrived from China with modest resources. She has catered to his every whim but has begun to tire from his needs in the waning months of his life. She clearly seeks the financial independence that she feels is her due for providing Stanley’s care. This leads to tawdry scenes of bickering between her, her sisters, and Stanley’s first family.Wang develops separate plots for each of the children as well as Stanley and Linda. These explore her various themes including the excesses of Silicon Valley, family dynamics among Asian families, marriage and relationships, ageing, and end of life issues. She injects enough humor and irony in the stories to make them engaging. However, their TV sitcom feeling and Wang’s third person narrative give the stories a superficial quality that seems to interfere with a deeper examination of her themes.
  • (4/5)
    Money. And the expectation of future money. There's probably nothing else in this world more easily able to tear apart a family, at least a wealthy family. Children want their (unearned) inheritance. First wives and second wives are at odds. First (ex)wives want their children to come into the cash while second wives want compensation for the time they spent catering to the dying. It all sounds so privileged and crass. But that's what makes for such fascinating reading, right? The low, grubbiness of it all. Kathy Wang has certainly captured this, and so much more, in her new novel, Family Trust.Stanley Huang is dying of pancreatic cancer. His ex-wife Linda, who spent more than three decades with Stanley and is the mother of his children, wants to make sure that Fred and Kate inherit Stanley's wealth, a wealth she spent a lot of time building up for Stanley through shrewd investments and the like. Mary, Stanley's second, much younger wife, has no knowledge of his financial situation other than that they have money. With Stanley actively dying, she now has to worry what she will do once he's gone. Kate and Fred want to have some idea how much they each stand to inherit so they know how much their lives will be eased, especially once those lives descend into turmoil. But Stanley's cagey, not wanting to disclose anything to anyone. He just wants everyone to be there for him, doing his bidding whenever he wants. With who knows how much money on the line, Stanley's family tries, at least half-heartedly and sometimes more than a little grudgingly, to give him what he wants in the few months he has left.Before his diagnosis, Stanley was self-involved, possessed of a nasty temper, and desirous of being seen as a successful and smart man. First wife Linda is financially savvy, emotionally remote, and generally content in her life post-divorce, even if divorce is still a little scandalous in her group of friends. She has washed her hands of Stanley as best she can but their shared children and this terminal diagnosis mean she cannot completely walk away from him. Along with tending her garden, occasionally babysitting her grandchildren, and astutely managing her money, she is discovering the appeal of online dating for the first time. Fred is a Harvard Business School grad who bemoans his mediocrity, at least as measured by Silicon Valley culture. He is dating an attractive, blonde, Bulgarian woman who works in sales at Saks and he is generally content with her except when she pressures him about marriage and blithely spends money he can't really (or doesn't want to) afford to spend. Kate is a director at a highly successful tech company. Having gotten in on the ground floor of the business before it took off, ala Google and Apple, means that she can afford to support her husband after he quits his job to attempt his own start-up, even if his presence in his attic home office doesn't translate into a bigger role in raising their two young children. In fact, Kate doesn't have any idea what Denny does up in the attic all day anyway. She is afraid to want more for herself than the life she's settled for. Mary, Stanley's second wife, speaks very little English and her step-children don't seem to like her very much although it is clear that Stanley dotes on her. She has been devoted to his care and comfort for the nine years of their marriage but the months after his diagnosis are the most pressure filled and fraught of all as she faces her own family's interest in her future financial situation and her step-children's interests being diametrically opposed to hers.Wang carefully draws each of these characters and all of the factors going on in their lives as the novel progresses, slowly revealing what each character's ultimate desire is. The chapters alternate between the five main characters, although Mary doesn't have a chapter from her point of view until quite late in the novel, leaving her motives murky and subject to interpretation by the others for a long time. Because the reader sees each character's circumstances, Stanley's diagnosis is almost an after thought and the greedy need to know Stanley's intentions and the size of their bequests comes across as grasping and selfish. Of course, Silicon Valley, as portrayed here doesn't come off much better, nor does the insular, wealthy Taiwanese-American community. The Huang family's strained dynamic is on full display, only complimented by professional pressure and presumed, or sometimes very real, racism, sexism, nepotism, and cronyism. The novel starts off quite slowly and somewhat less than engagingly but it does eventually pick up, with the reader interested in finding out just how much money Stanley has, what Kate's husband is doing and whether she'll finally have the push to go after what she really wants, the truth about Linda's new online beau, and how Fred is going to improve his business standing and where his relationship is headed. Yes, there really are that many plot threads, and a few more besides. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic but their status seeking, family loyalty, and reactions to cultural pressures are interesting to watch as an outsider. This is very definitely a novel of "rich people problems" but don't we all sometimes fantasize about having these sorts of problems? Spending a few hours between the covers of this one will deliver just that, and maybe an appreciation for your own problems instead.
  • (5/5)
    Kathy Wang's fantastic novel Family Trust opens with Silicon Valley resident Stanley Huang being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Divorced from his first wife Linda, married to his second, decades-younger wife Mary, father to two grown children, Fred and Kate, suddenly Stanley's life is turned upside down.Each chapter is narrated by one of the main characters- Linda, Fred, and Kate take the lead, with Stanley and Mary each taking on a smaller role. Linda has been divorced for many years, and has decided to take the advice of her friends and try online dating with Tigerlily, a dating service geared towards Asians.She connects with Winston online and he seems to be the opposite of Stanley. Winston appears to be an open, caring, outgoing man. Stanley was prone to violent outbursts, sometimes frightening his children.Linda was the financial wizard in the family, and although Stanley liked to portray himself as worth millions, Linda had her doubts. She kept pushing Fred and Kate to talk to Stanley and get information about his will. Whenever the topic was brought up, Stanley was very vague about details.Fred worked in finance, but he felt stuck in his role at Lion Capital. When an old college friend dangles a huge opportunity in front of him, Fred finally feels that his luck may be changing.Kate is married to Denny, and a mom to two young children. She works for X Corp, a huge Silicon Valley company, where she has been for several years and is a valued employee. Denny is trying to get a startup going, with little success (or ambition) so far.Fred and Kate both could use the money from their father's will to make their lives easier. Linda fears that Stanley will leave most of his money to his new wife, leaving their children out in the cold.I found Linda's story to be the most intriguing. She is a smart, tough, hardworking, clear-eyed woman. Her interactions with her circle of female friends and her sharp-tongued observations made me laugh.Mary had one chapter to tell her story and I found it surprising. Up to this point, we only saw her through the eyes of the others, it was a revelation to see her innermost thoughts.Family Trust is a remarkable novel. Each character's story draws the reader in, and each person''s story could stand on their own in their own novel. The ingenious way that Wang weaves their stories together is a marvel.It is a novel about a family who came to here to find the American dream. Both Stanley and Linda worked hard to make a good life for their children, pushed them to go to good schools and be successful. It has been compared to The Nest and Crazy Rich Asians, both of which I read and enjoyed, but Family Trust is the best of the three. Wang successfully combines humor and pathos in a deeply rich novel.
  • (3/5)
    A book focused on contemporary life in the well off Asian American family of the Huangs who live in the bay area of California. The characters were well drawn if not especially likeable with the plot revolving around the family members of Stanley Huang who is dying of pancreatic cancer, with the members speculating on the possible fortune Stanley may leave behind to his children and wife. I read the first part of the book then started skipping pages as the story did not sustain my interest although I appreciated the author's attempts to balance her characters' faults with their positive virtues. And yes I did read the last chapter to see how it all turned out.
  • (4/5)
    Stanley Huang has learned he has cancer. Such sad news is the driver of this novel about family relationships good, bad, indifferent and possibly criminal. Stanley has a wife, and ex wife and two children. His daughter is married to a somewhat sketchy guy and his son is trying hard to be more than he is. The ex wife is concerned for her children’s inheritance but knows that Stanley is all talk. His current wife is all show and knows relatively little about the true nature of her husband.The book goes back and forth between all of the featured players, sharing how they deal not only Stanley’s diagnosis and decline but the whirlwind of their everyday lives. Fred is divorced and seeing a high maintenance woman who wants him to put a ring on it. He has puffed up his job significance and his importance in his field. She is a social climber and always looking to work an angle. Kate is married and has a very good job and supports her husband in his entrepreneurial dreams – until she can’t figure out exactly what it is he is doing all day long. When she starts to investigate she is not sure she is going to like what she finds out.Stanley’s ex is concerned for both of her children and wants to make sure they get their rightful inheritance as she did the heavy lifting in building whatever fortune Stanley may have. She put up with his temper and his emotional abuse until she left and found a freedom she didn’t realize she could have. Now she doesn’t want the upstart second wife to get what her children deserve – not that she thinks there is all that much there. The second wife is much younger and really, at this point only out for herself.There is a LOT going on in this book and I haven’t really even touched on half of it in the paragraphs above. There are Fred’s work problems, a catfishing subplot, a group of gossipy Ladies Who Lunch, rich prep school boys and an attempt to defraud the Thai government. And MORE!It’s a lot. Too much I think. A thread is picked up in one chapter then dropped and picked up a few chapters later. Maybe it’s me but I prefer a more linear story line. This way of writing works in many cases but when there is this.much going on it’s a little bit hard to keep track of it all.Or maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t know.The book is centered on an Asian family but the issues are, for the most part universal in that families can drive us all batty. Add in money and it gets downright insane.It was a solid read. The characters are many and the core family members are defined but many of the ancillary characters remain somewhat less rounded. The various plots and subplots for the most part all wrap up but I will admit to having some questions still at the end. I don’t know if I just missed something along the way – which is possible. There is a lot going on and my brain is my brain. – or if they were meant to remain ambiguous.
  • (4/5)
    The plot of this novel can be summed up in one sentence. Stanley, a Chinese-American, is dying of pancreatic cancer, and his two children, exwife, and current wife are concerned about their inheritances. So many things about this book made me feel I wouldn’t like it. It was so slow going through the first 100 pages, all the characters were hard to like, and the emphasis on money and competition was very off putting to me. But I kept going and the story just kept getting better for me. I loved the family dynamics, the pacing picked up, and the humor was delightful. I’m glad I stayed with the book.
  • (4/5)
    It took me awhile to get into this book but then I picked up speed. An interesting array of characters but they really weren't fully developed enough for me. The plot was basic and each of the family's story lines weren't delved into deeply. Everything was wrapped up nicely though. A good book, yes--a great book, no.
  • (3/5)
    This book was okay considering it's a debut book. The writing style was good, I like how each chapter was from a different characters story and point of view. That said, I really could not connect with any of the characters. They seemed cold and self absorbed. Everyone just wanted to know how much Stanley was worth and who he was leaving his money to. The book was slow paced, not much really happens throughout the book.
  • (4/5)
    Stanley Huang is dying, and his family, which includes his ex-wife Linda, their children Fred and Kate, and much younger second wife Mary, are all in the dark about his net worth and his plans. This is a comedy of manners, set in Silicon Valley, with a family of immigrants at its center. Each is seeking their own American dream. Linda worked for years for IBM and has a sizable investment account. Fred is a Harvard MBA investment banker, seeking the next big score. Kate works for X corp, which develops new consumer products, while her husband stays home and is an entrepreneur. Mary immigrated from China and works only at keeping Stanley happy.This is a good read, and while it dwells on the problems of rich or nearly rich people, it also explores the dynamics of immigrant families, their expectations and struggles. I enjoyed it.
  • (4/5)
    Stanley Huang has learned he has cancer. Such sad news is the driver of this novel about family relationships good, bad, indifferent and possibly criminal. Stanley has a wife, and ex wife and two children. His daughter is married to a somewhat sketchy guy and his son is trying hard to be more than he is. The ex wife is concerned for her children’s inheritance but knows that Stanley is all talk. His current wife is all show and knows relatively little about the true nature of her husband.The book goes back and forth between all of the featured players, sharing how they deal not only Stanley’s diagnosis and decline but the whirlwind of their everyday lives. Fred is divorced and seeing a high maintenance woman who wants him to put a ring on it. He has puffed up his job significance and his importance in his field. She is a social climber and always looking to work an angle. Kate is married and has a very good job and supports her husband in his entrepreneurial dreams – until she can’t figure out exactly what it is he is doing all day long. When she starts to investigate she is not sure she is going to like what she finds out.Stanley’s ex is concerned for both of her children and wants to make sure they get their rightful inheritance as she did the heavy lifting in building whatever fortune Stanley may have. She put up with his temper and his emotional abuse until she left and found a freedom she didn’t realize she could have. Now she doesn’t want the upstart second wife to get what her children deserve – not that she thinks there is all that much there. The second wife is much younger and really, at this point only out for herself.There is a LOT going on in this book and I haven’t really even touched on half of it in the paragraphs above. There are Fred’s work problems, a catfishing subplot, a group of gossipy Ladies Who Lunch, rich prep school boys and an attempt to defraud the Thai government. And MORE!It’s a lot. Too much I think. A thread is picked up in one chapter then dropped and picked up a few chapters later. Maybe it’s me but I prefer a more linear story line. This way of writing works in many cases but when there is this.much going on it’s a little bit hard to keep track of it all.Or maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t know.The book is centered on an Asian family but the issues are, for the most part universal in that families can drive us all batty. Add in money and it gets downright insane.It was a solid read. The characters are many and the core family members are defined but many of the ancillary characters remain somewhat less rounded. The various plots and subplots for the most part all wrap up but I will admit to having some questions still at the end. I don’t know if I just missed something along the way – which is possible. There is a lot going on and my brain is my brain. – or if they were meant to remain ambiguous.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book very much.
  • (3/5)
    I'm kinda left with this empty feeling. It's like this book lacked heart and there was this coldness to it. And maybe that was intentional given so much of the focus is on what a dying man is leaving in his will and who will get what. In a family drama though I expect to feel more for the characters than I did with this one.Stanley Huang has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His ex-wife, Linda, encourages her adult children to get Stanley to divulge how much he is worth and who gets what so there are no problems with his second wife, Mary, after he dies. Linda wants to makes sure her kids get their fair share given she was the one who was the primary breadwinner when she and Stanley were married. With Stanley's death approaching, Linda, her two kids, and Mary will all face challenges that will make them question what is really important.The book gets off to a really slow start because there is too much focus on business and the lives of characters who really have nothing to do with the story. The book alternates chapters between different family members and so you are just getting to know the main characters but you're also getting all this unnecessary info which makes it overwhelming to read. Thankfully, after about 100 pages, you finally will feel like you are starting to understand this family a bit better.I liked the idea behind this book but I can't say I loved this story. If you are looking for a book that explores the business side of Silicon Valley and people motivated by money, this is a decent pick. But as a family drama, I just don't think this comes close to matching some of the other books I have read recently. I won a free copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
  • (2/5)
    The open greed and the chaotic one-upmanship of this novel was too much for me. Yes, it was witty, but the globe-trotting characters were so one-dimensional.